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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
hi folks... been a long time since i posted anything... but could use any suggestions out there.

have a 10 1/2 yo 72 lb m-n white boxer (luke). has been pretty much healthy all his life, or so i thought. had a big scare over last weekend. rushed into emergency vet which he ended up staying in for a few days. diagnosis from the board cert cardiologist is DCM, right-sided congestive heart failure, and a serious ventricular arrhythmia. got him back home late monday. is on Furosemide, Pimobendan, and Mexiletine. most of the week has been keeping him calm & comfortable, get use to the meds, and transitioning back into the normal feeding routine with his regular kibble. have had him (and another 11 1/2 boxer i have) on acana singles for a number of years. when i have the followup with cardi in a week or so i'm sure she'll want to have the discussion on nutrition.

i've been doing a bunch of research of whats out on internet, and gathering up specs (as fed & dm analysis on all the specs and then some) on their current kibble along with a few others just in case i need to change in order to reduce sodium, chloride, etc etc... basically moving to something that may be more cardiac supportive. not saying i want to change but doing homework just in case. the few others i have gathered specs on are a couple of purina pro plan FOCUS sensitive skin and stomach (lamb and their salmon), royal canin vet early cardiac, hills prescription h/d, and rayne clinical nutrition Restrict-CKD. i know.... i understand and don't like the ingredient of most of them either but gathered up their specs for comparison as all the good foods i looked at just seem so high in sodium, chloride, phosphorus and potassium. rayne is a new one i was unfamiliar with but they did seem somewhat intriguing... although pricey.

if anyone has prior experience willing to share would be appreciated.... especially with nutrition (food you may have transitioned to for cardiac support... treats... any extras you added or things you made sure were not included). any other info / suggestions is appreciated as well... things i should consider, plan for, etc. i know activity levels will need to be restrained at least for awhile to let him get use to meds and see how that goes, get some recovery time in, etc... so no more big play dates with his buds or big walks or long time out in heat / humidity at least for awhile.

thanks in advance with any suggestions.
 

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Don't have any experience with DCM , but I also fed Acana singles and switched to Origin because it had higher protein.

I do add sardines and some raw hearts and eggs to his meals. Not sure about the eggs, but I know sardines and hearts, organ meats are really good for the heart. I believe anything with Taurine in it is good for the heart.

Sorry about your bad news, but thats a good job getting your boxer into double digits. It seems that is not the norm these days.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
thanks matt. yeah... for the longest time i wanted to get my 2 guys on orijen... but tried a few times many years ago and couldn't get them to work with it... so went with acana since i liked champion.

taurine is def one of the additives i have on my list for discussion with cardi.

and yeah... i've been blessed with my 11 1/2 yo and this 10 1/2 yo. was probably trying to keep a blind eye to the age they were getting to... and just keep them going along as healthy as possible for many more years but reality sinking in... and researching the board over the past couple of days just reinforced the luck i've had. so many other good parents out there that just lost their guys and gals too soon.
 

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Yup, I talked to a couple boxer owners and they said buy the small bag 1st because boxers don't tend to do well on Orijen(messy stools) lol. I guess I got lucky because he has been great on it.

Well hopefully treatment goes well for you guys and you have many more years with Luke. Good luck.(y)
 

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I had two die of food related DCM. They don't really know why for sure the grain free diets are killing dogs but now its thought the number of legumes and peas added to the food is maybe a cause now I have heard that even with foods with grains in them if the legume content is high there is still a problem. Those meds you are using are the same ones I used and they did help but very expensive. Activity restrictions are necessary like you are doing. Unfortunately for me once the DCM started in my dogs it went like a freight train they were doing well at first with the meds but within 3 months they both went down hill fast. I lost both of my dogs within 6 months of each other one was 7 one was 3 a very hard lesson learned.I hope your dogs do well
 

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Sorry you are dealing with DCM but you have been fortunate to have your guys reach their age. That in itself says something good. I think at this point in their lives I would follow my vets advise to control his heart issues. I wouldn't necessarily change foods unless suggested by vet. As Matt said many had a few sardines weekly to boost taurine. Purina has been researching and many have gone back to their foods too. I now have a standard poodle and he is fed Victor high performance. I add a little of another brand currently merrick beef & sweet potato, basically just for a change and he also gets dehydrated raw toppers, like instinct or sojos. From some of the food research I've done a big suspect in heart disease is the added legumes many have been using to boost protein levels in dog food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks luvmiboxers & lindar. i have also been paying attention the past couple of years on the food topic. not in depth though. personally on the fence with it all, and probably like everyone else, would really like to see a full court press from some organization to gather detailed and comprehensive hard evidence / analysis one way or another. maybe something is out there and i'm missing it though... as mentioned was just really skimming thru the various press releases and articles coming out the past couple years to stay informed. with this issue now popping up with luke... was doing my typical rigorous reading / learning on the whole cardiac subject now that i have to deal with it, more from a perspective of what do i do now and what to watch for and expect... and ran across this effort and a recent publication they made in june (https://www.dcmresearchproject.org/). not sure where that one may lead or any timeframe. again... i am stuck on the fence with the whole issue... i'm pretty cynical and skeptical of everyone on both sides being that there's so much money on the line, but hopefully someone can get to the true root cause and put this to bed quickly cause something sure does look like it's going on.
 

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What I would like to happen is for them to put warning labels on all grain free dog foods so people would know there is a risk there. My female in particular passed a echo and her heart was fine until I switched to grain free my boy was only 3 when he died as well they were both eating the same food. I only hope to warn others too so they don't have to go thru the pain I did it was one of the worst things to have happened to me. I blame myself all the time because I fed it to them and I did not know. Its a guilt I will never get over.
 

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Here are some of the latest articles I found,


So either they still really just don't know for sure exactly what the cause is. Mostly it seems there is a genetic factor and a specific nutrition factor. I don't think they will ever know for sure. I think our best bet is 1. lok for breeders that genetically test, and 2. give a varied diet .
When I was a kid we never had many health issues with our dogs, they got a can of food, cheap dog food, and kibble. But then again dogs breeding was far less, they were hardly ever spayed or neutered and if your dog lived to be 10 you thought that was great. Today our dogs are more and more part of our daily family life, we want them around longer and to remain healthy. Sometimes , like some of us, we get health issues. Then its time for the doctor/vet in our dogs cases to help keep us going.

I sure do hope they can find what helps keep your guy healthy.
Luvmiboxers Don't beat yourself up for going grain free , its what they were telling us and beside there is a genetic factor involved too so they were probably pre disposed, especially the 3 year old.
 

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My 3 year old was predisposed his father has it and he passed it to 3 of the 5 puppies in the litter, but they are all still alive with medication the difference in those dogs and mine is the other dogs were never fed grain free and they are still here my boy went down really fast. Those dogs only got tested because my dog was found to have it and then the others were diagnosed and yes that male should not have been bred its the reason alot of breeders do the testing but it is what it is now and I loved that dog so much it hurts me every time I think about it. He would still be here if it weren't for grain free and I know that in my heart.
 

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hi folks... been a long time since i posted anything... but could use any suggestions out there.

have a 10 1/2 yo 72 lb m-n white boxer (luke). has been pretty much healthy all his life, or so i thought. had a big scare over last weekend. rushed into emergency vet which he ended up staying in for a few days. diagnosis from the board cert cardiologist is DCM, right-sided congestive heart failure, and a serious ventricular arrhythmia. got him back home late monday. is on Furosemide, Pimobendan, and Mexiletine. most of the week has been keeping him calm & comfortable, get use to the meds, and transitioning back into the normal feeding routine with his regular kibble. have had him (and another 11 1/2 boxer i have) on acana singles for a number of years. when i have the followup with cardi in a week or so i'm sure she'll want to have the discussion on nutrition.

i've been doing a bunch of research of whats out on internet, and gathering up specs (as fed & dm analysis on all the specs and then some) on their current kibble along with a few others just in case i need to change in order to reduce sodium, chloride, etc etc... basically moving to something that may be more cardiac supportive. not saying i want to change but doing homework just in case. the few others i have gathered specs on are a couple of purina pro plan FOCUS sensitive skin and stomach (lamb and their salmon), royal canin vet early cardiac, hills prescription h/d, and rayne clinical nutrition Restrict-CKD. i know.... i understand and don't like the ingredient of most of them either but gathered up their specs for comparison as all the good foods i looked at just seem so high in sodium, chloride, phosphorus and potassium. rayne is a new one i was unfamiliar with but they did seem somewhat intriguing... although pricey.

if anyone has prior experience willing to share would be appreciated.... especially with nutrition (food you may have transitioned to for cardiac support... treats... any extras you added or things you made sure were not included). any other info / suggestions is appreciated as well... things i should consider, plan for, etc. i know activity levels will need to be restrained at least for awhile to let him get use to meds and see how that goes, get some recovery time in, etc... so no more big play dates with his buds or big walks or long time out in heat / humidity at least for awhile.

thanks in advance with any suggestions.
I put my guy on Royal Canin When he was diagnosed with DCM at his cardiologists suggestion. Ali’ was 9 When he was diagnosed. That was in 2011. He passed at the age of 12 in 2014. He’d have ground turkey and ground chicken (cooked) with it. Now I ask myself did we give him the right food? I don’t know. I know we were lucky to have him that long. But somehow it never seems long enough. Just lost our “grand puppy” at the age of 4 to Juvenile Renal Dysplasia! I was so worried about cancer or heart in the boxer breed. Never thought of kidney! Prayers to you and your beautiful boy!
 

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It sounds like your guy lived a good life got to a good age so you must have been taking good care of him. No matter what we do as owners we can't prevent some of the things that happen to our dogs. Most Vets now will not recommend any grain free
I put my guy on Royal Canin When he was diagnosed with DCM at his cardiologists suggestion. Ali’ was 9 When he was diagnosed. That was in 2011. He passed at the age of 12 in 2014. He’d have ground turkey and ground chicken (cooked) with it. Now I ask myself did we give him the right food? I don’t know. I know we were lucky to have him that long. But somehow it never seems long enough. Just lost our “grand puppy” at the age of 4 to Juvenile Renal Dysplasia! I was so worried about cancer or heart in the boxer breed. Never thought of kidney! Prayers to you and your beautiful boy!
dog foods and if your dog comes down with any cardiac issue they will recommend taking them off of it and going to grain inclusive diet. I learned the hard way. I feed RC also my guys do best with the sensitive digestion formula and I boil boneless skinless chicken breast and shred it up for meat on their meals they are doing well with it. I am sorry you lost your 4 year old to the kidney disease its really awful to lose them when they are young, it was very hard on me to lose my 3 year old he didn't even get to have much of a life so that was very hard.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Everyone,

I just want to say thank you all for your feedback, suggestions, stories and contributions to my question.

I too never thought I'd be in this situation, but as I mentioned both of mine are getting up there in age, so I guess the probabilities of something happening I guess just rise. Guess I was just trying not to think about having any issues as long as I could... is why this happening now is all a bit of a shocker to me.

For those of you that have battled an issue previously, no matter what it was or when in the dog's life, I am so sorry for your loss. I can read between the lines of your words and messages that no matter how long they were with you, I'm positive they had the best life and time they could have had. I can tell all of you are very much dedicated to your pups... just like me.

I am most definitely taking in your experience and suggestions in figuring out my next steps with Luke's heart issues, and Apollo as well. Thank you again.
 

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Good luck with your dogs heart issues, they do make some very good heart meds now so I hope those will help your dogs enjoy their lives to the fullest. It seems there is a big difference in dogs with DCM from food and DCM hereditary or incidental with the later responding better to treatments available.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Just an update for anyone interested or following this thread...

Luke seems to be doing ok. In addition to the 3 meds I listed on my original post, the cardiologist has added Benazepril, and she recently told me she's looking to add a 5th med (she didn't mention what it was yet.) So he's pretty much taking one or some combo of the meds every 4 hrs from 6a - 10p. Fortunately, he has not had any apparent adverse affects, and takes them all quite willingly buried in a little piece of boiled chicken.

He had a 24 hr holter test and it turned out fairly good. They did see some arrhythmias, but they were sporadic and not continuous, which the cardi said was a good thing. He's had blood work done a couple of times checking on any impact of all the meds and condition... all was looking ok. No sign of fluid build-up, dehydration, impacted kidney / liver function, etc etc.

I've already reviewed everything with a vet nutritionist, and following their suggestions on changing diet (and some recommendations of a few kibbles to support his condition and all the meds he is on) I selected and will be transitioning Luke to Royal Canin Boxer Adult, and supplement with a high quality liquid omega-3 for more EPA+DHA. Also has a limited set of treats to use for him, along with some calorie thresholds for primary meals and subsequent treats.

Lastly... need to start working on getting him more active. No big boxer parties yet (I'm sure y'all know what I mean)... but he's been poster-child couch potato and as long as heat / humidity get under control need to start working on building activity and exercise.

Just in case... I took my other guy Apollo in for a cardiac check. He had good results from an echo-cardiogram, no murmurs, and should get results back in a couple of days from him wearing a 24 hr holter... but it appears he's gonna be clear of any cardiac issues. Thank goodness.
 

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Just an update for anyone interested or following this thread...

Luke seems to be doing ok. In addition to the 3 meds I listed on my original post, the cardiologist has added Benazepril, and she recently told me she's looking to add a 5th med (she didn't mention what it was yet.) So he's pretty much taking one or some combo of the meds every 4 hrs from 6a - 10p. Fortunately, he has not had any apparent adverse affects, and takes them all quite willingly buried in a little piece of boiled chicken.

He had a 24 hr holter test and it turned out fairly good. They did see some arrhythmias, but they were sporadic and not continuous, which the cardi said was a good thing. He's had blood work done a couple of times checking on any impact of all the meds and condition... all was looking ok. No sign of fluid build-up, dehydration, impacted kidney / liver function, etc etc.

I've already reviewed everything with a vet nutritionist, and following their suggestions on changing diet (and some recommendations of a few kibbles to support his condition and all the meds he is on) I selected and will be transitioning Luke to Royal Canin Boxer Adult, and supplement with a high quality liquid omega-3 for more EPA+DHA. Also has a limited set of treats to use for him, along with some calorie thresholds for primary meals and subsequent treats.

Lastly... need to start working on getting him more active. No big boxer parties yet (I'm sure y'all know what I mean)... but he's been poster-child couch potato and as long as heat / humidity get under control need to start working on building activity and exercise.

Just in case... I took my other guy Apollo in for a cardiac check. He had good results from an echo-cardiogram, no murmurs, and should get results back in a couple of days from him wearing a 24 hr holter... but it appears he's gonna be clear of any cardiac issues. Thank goodness.
Awesome, sounds like the best possible outcome knowing the pre existing issue before the holter test.
Good luck going forward, hope the meds work out well for you guys.
 

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I am so glad your dog is doing well with the meds. I have a friend whose boxers are both on the multiple meds and they are doing really well you just have to be careful with them getting over stressed or excited. I am sure like you said the heat and humidity are not a boxers friends I just heard of another boxer who was diagnosed with DCM and is in congestive heart failure and again he was fed grain free food. Royal Canin is a good dog food, it has the heart supplements that boxers need in it already and they do have a good recommendation from many Vets so I think you are safe with them I feed it to my dogs as well. I wish you all the luck and only good times with your dogs enjoy each other and have fun together I remember making up all kinds of "house games" to play with my dogs when they were sick I got some dog puzzles and we would hide toys with treats in them in the house so you can still have fun together maybe not the high octane fun they used to have but still good bonding times. I am so glad you keep us updated on what's happening..
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
hello.... this is a post i made about 12 months ago, but figured it would be good to stay on this thread with a bit of an update in case all the information may be helpful to others now or in the future. luke is still with us and fighting the good fight, but here's what has progressed...

as noted in my original post, in july of 2020 i had a bit of a scare with luke and his heart. won't repeat all of that i had written above. suffice to say, since that original scare in 2020 up until june of this year (2021), he has been relatively stable. he has been on 5 different medications supporting his heart functions and a different diet. he had quite regular checkups and tests with his cardiologist. all was looking fairly good. then... i think it was early-mid june some signs started showing up all of a sudden.

he was getting out of breath and labored breathing simply going outside for potty breaks. that was about the time we started having a good bit of heat and humidity in our area... but he was not being a crazy boxer... simply walking out the patio door to outside he'd start huffing and puffing. even in the house (with AC cranked) he'd have a bit of heavy breathing. ride in the car was the same. we have not been doing any walks.

then i noticed what appeared to be a weakness or stability issue with his hind legs.

then he started to get finicky when eating. either slow to eat, not finishing it at all, or turning away completely.

stools started to turn bad.

his cardiologist and regular vet were updated regularly, and regular vet saw him once or twice. at this point they weren't quite sure what may be happening.

finally, towards end of july, i saw the abdomen starting to grow again. i had been periodically measuring it, and one day saw it jump a good bit. that, along with the other symptoms, i rushed him in and he clearly had built up fluid in abdomen. they drained a little over a liter.

after hearing what happened and seeing the report, the cardiologist changed up his meds a bit (increasing some dosages and frequency). luke subsequently had another 400 ml of fluid drained a week or so later. more med adjustments made by cardiologist.

so now... was fairly obvious his heart issues were progressing. dang it ! :( finally had his visit with his cardiologist. did not perform a new echo at this point, just a thoracic xray, effusion scan and blood work. she said she did see a bit more enlargement of heart, lungs were clear of fluid, bloodwork was good, but also saw a bit more fluid building in abdomen. she is increasing the diuretics again to help manage the abdominal fluid buildup... and prefers to try to do that through meds versus draining... as draining too much or too often can have other repercussions.

a couple weeks ago i started keeping a detailed log of pretty much everything that happens to him each day... very helpful as i'm getting a bit challenged in memory.

my biggest concern as of today is the food intake... am using a number of the tricks to keep him eating enough and getting stools somewhat decent. counting on the meds to get a handle on fluid buildup, and worst case getting a bit drained. his hind leg weakness is progressing a bit... can't jump up on the bed any longer... but not much can be done about that at this point.

it's not his time just yet, but there's no answer for the big question... could he stabilize again, how quick will things progress, what's next, etc etc... just gonna go day to day and adjust as needed.
 

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I am so sorry you have to go thru this with your beloved dog. I had to do this with my two precious babies Koko was 7 and Jaxson was 3 and thanks to grain free dog food I lost both of them to DCM within 6 months of each other. As their hearts got worse their appetites went to almost nothing I would take some of their food and heat it up a second or two in the microwave to make it smell extra good sometimes it would work sometimes all I could get them to eat was baby food the meat kind slightly heated. I think some of those meds would be upsetting to the stomach as well as explained to me the less the heart is working their stomach just can't handle the regular foods anymore. My dogs progressed to the point of just laying around not wanting to get up or eat when I was forced to make the decision every dog owner dreads but I felt it was best for them. Each person has to come to this decision in their own way and time as no one knows your dog like you do. Sounds like you have done and are doing all that can be done my prayers are with you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
I am so sorry you have to go thru this with your beloved dog...
thanks... am sorry you had to experience as well. i know it may be hard to bring back those memories, but i really do appreciate you sharing your knowledge and experience. it helps.

i'm trying all the little "tricks" i've learned... adding in a bit of finely diced apple flesh, a couple of small pieces of boiled chicken, tbsp of pumpkin, few small pieces of mashed up banana, a couple splashes of "no salt added" chicken broth with a bit of warm water... not all at once but a combo of a couple at different feedings to mix it up. all trying to do the same as you mentioned and get it to smell extra good. also giving a little less kibble at each feeding but 3 or 4 times a day vs twice a day. did not think about the baby food. thanks for the tip. also have a suggestion from cardiologist office to try a prescription product called "Entyce". supposedly something that stimulates appetite. if i can't get him going soon i'll probably give that a try as well.

also... the cardiologist prescribed a probiotic... "Proviable"... that i started yesterday to see if that might help with stool and any gi distress.

in my laymans understanding of what she explained, right sided heart failure leads to that fluid buildup in abdomen, and can also create issues in stomach and intestines. can't remember if that's a secondary issue created from the fluid buildup or just another direct result from heart failure (left and/or right side) in general. but i also agree with you... all these meds he is on, and that have been recently increased in both dose and frequency to help manage some of the other symptoms, just has to be beating up his gi system at least a bit. so kinda like a 1-2 punch to the gut so to speak. poor boy. no doubt some combination of the heart condition itself, the resulting effects on other organs and bodily systems, and maybe the meds just create an impact to appetite and processing of food.
 
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